As evidenced by these patent drawings, Kawasaki is developing a radical new engine layout. Kawasaki's new design resembles the Husaberg 450 FE in form and mounts the cylinder block to the transmission at 70 degrees, but here it's being applied to both multi- and single-cylinder engines using both chain and shaft final drives. Application of this design strategy across nearly its entire range of bikes could mean Kawasaki sees it as a unique engineering signature which, in addition to providing performance benefits, could give its range a brandable, tangible mechanical difference compared to its Japanese competitors. Like associating BMW with horizontally opposed twins or Triumph with triples, we could come to think of Kawasaki as the brand with the 70-degree engines.
Performance advantages of this engine layout include reduced weight and
reduced size thanks to combining the block with the transmission
housing, a lowered center of gravity, increased stability thanks to the
gyroscopic effect of the crankshaft being moved closer to that CG and
increased perceived smoothness because of the change in prevailing
vibration angle. There's also advantages to the intake system thanks to
a simplified route for pressurized air.
Kawasaki filed these patents in 2006 — they've only just reached public
attention — meaning that if they do decide to go in this direction for
a production machine or range — be they bikes or quads or both — we
could see them in the very near future. We have no indication the 2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R will be so equipped, but it would seem like a good place
to start, instantly giving it a significant mechanical distinction from
its too similar rivals.